In today’s technological society, it is easy to forget how much we depend on pictures (examples, illustrations, symbols) to show us the way. In a world filled with smart phones, tablets, and television, we are so overwhelmed with visual stimuli that we often miss the pictures that were indeed designed to lead us into greater righteousness. Worse, we do more than merely ignoring the illustrations that God has given us, we discard them. Many, it seems to me, do not even realize what has been lost.
I know a beautiful family of 13 (twelve kids plus mom). They have very few material things, and at times they even go without food. About a year ago, the 12th child was born into this family, a cute little boy with Down’s Syndrome. As it is with so many Down’s babies, he has heart problems, eating problems, and breathing problems. It has been difficult for them all, because the child’s future is not at all certain, and they are all very worried.
Everyone loved their littlest brother from the beginning, this much anyone could see. Over the past year, however, something else began to happen. Almost imperceptibly at first, and growing only very gradually, all of the siblings began to love each other more. Less fighting, more giving, and it was the littlest brother who taught them all. How can this be? How is it that a little 1 year old downs baby can teach the greatest of lessons? Because he is a picture, an illustration that not only conveys great truth, but also inspires and draws you in, until you become part of the picture, and that changes you.
To love a disabled infant is to love a person that can do almost nothing for you in return (except for that really cute smile), and that is a better picture of God than most anything else in this wide world. It is a picture that packs a punch. It not only changes the siblings, it changes even those who have the privilege of seeing it. True love is like that, it is always generative (just like God). It is contagious.
For the past few years, my family has been blessed (and greatly) by my wife’s mother, who lives with us. She recently lost a leg to diabetes, and I know that while she was laid up, she at times felt as if she were a burden, but in fact the exact opposite was true. It was precisely when she needed us the most, and when she could do the least for herself, that she best taught us what God’s love really is. My family needed this picture, because we forget what God’s love is. We so easily forget…
Today in America we seem determined to measure the worth of a person by his or her utility to society, and by his ability to stand on his own. This attitude is so pervasive that I have heard many people literally wishing aloud that they would die before they became a burden. This is tragic! They would rather die right before they begin to teach perhaps the most powerful and most profound lesson. In weakness and frailty, we become pictures of God’s love that transform everyone involved, even mere observers.
Abortion is a black plague on our nation. First and foremost because it is murder, depriving the most innocent of life. But look further, and see that it also deprives the rest of us of pictures of God’s love. The doctors encouraged the mother of the little Down’s baby to have an abortion (simply because he was a Down’s baby). Think of the beautiful picture that would have been lost if mom had consented. Think of the love that exists today between the siblings that never would have been.
In a nation where we abort babies, place the elderly in nursing homes, and the disabled in institutions, it is any wonder that we have forgotten how to love? There is nothing wrong with being a productive member of society, but when that becomes the goal, rather than the means to loving others with our abundance, then much has been lost.